April 7, 2009

OPINION | MPRB is worth saving—even saving from itself

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Critics of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board come from many directions these days, with some proposing elimination of MPRB, and others (myself included) considering it deeply flawed, but important to revitalize and save.

Recognizing and calling attention to the deep flaws of the MPRB, whether it be the actions (or lack of action) by commissioners and/or senior staff, does not equate with wanting to eliminate the MPRB. Yet, unfortunately, that’s a common misperception.

Does wanting to make government wiser, more responsible and careful in its operation and spending of our tax dollars mean you want to eliminate it? Of course not! Yet, it seems that the MPRB members have a bunker mentality and assume that anyone pointing out the problems is attacking them, rather than the problem. Now, with the proposal that threatens the existence of the MPRB, that assumption includes the assumption that critics of the MPRB want it eliminated.

I can only speak for myself, but while I believe the MPRB and its senior staff has MUCH room for improvement, I believe that moving oversight of the Minneapolis Park System to the City Council would be far worse.

There are potential savings in merging the Park Police and the city police, and that fiefdom deserves serious questioning, but I firmly believe an independent park board should be protected.

Unfortunately, the “flaws” the MPRB has displayed leave it particularly vulnerable as this proposal for its elimination has surfaced. Since they’ve rather consistently failed to engage in self-examination as problems were brought to light, it’s not too surprising that they now over react to discussions of its right to exist. And since they’ve maintained unquestioning support for a senior staff that repeatedly leads them down troubled paths, the fact that Pres. Nordyke took advice from a man with a demonstrated failure to comprehend the basics of free speech is not surprising.

It’s my wish that the Park Board abandon a defensive position that only gives more ammunition to those who want it abolished and trust that the city’s citizens are wise enough to understand the following:

1 – “deep flaws” are not reason to eliminate the independent MPRB,

2 – calling attention to the MPRB’s flaws and asking for their correction does NOT equate with calling for its elimination, and

3 – discussion of a proposal calling for its elimination is not to be equated with wanting the MPRB abolished.

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